The English Premier League and Women’s Super League are currently trialling concussion substitutions until the end of the season. Starting last weekend, English top flight clubs are now able to make an additional substitution if there are fears a player has a concussion injury.
In November, the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) discussed plans for change following the incident which happened – just two weeks prior – between David Luiz and Raul Jimenez during Wolves 2-1 victory over Arsenal.
A head clash between the pair left the Wolves striker with a broken skull which required surgery, while Luiz received medical treatment on the pitch. After being given the all-clear the Arsenal defender continued with a Terry Butcher-like bandage until half-time. He was subsequently substituted, complaining that it, “wasn’t comfortable heading the ball.” Jimenez has since recovered from surgery but is yet to play again this season.
Following the match, the Arsenal medics were questioned if they had done enough to protect the player as it seemed clear he should not have continued.
This led to the IFAB stating:
“In the event of an actual or suspected concussion, the player in question should be permanently removed from the match to protect their welfare, but the player’s team should not suffer a numerical disadvantage”.
To prevent teams potentially gaining an advantage with this additional substitute, opposing teams will also be given an additional substitution so that managers can make the same number of changes in a game as their opponents.
However, we are yet to see this in action.
So, could we see this in Scotland?
Following the same IFAB meeting, the SFA approved the use of additional substitutions in this seasons Scottish Cup.
John MacLean, the Scottish FA Chief Medical Consultant, said:
“This is an important step in the progress that is being made across sport surrounding head injuries. The introduction of a permanent concussion substitute in football would build on Scotland’s world-leading approach on the subject of head injury and trauma in sport.”
Additional changes have already been made at development levels. Last year the SFA banned all heading for under 12 age groups while stating heading was of ‘low priority’ for older children – limiting heading sessions to once per week for 16 and 17-year-olds.
The heading ban came after studies investigated a significant increase in neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia in former professional footballers. And, although not definitively linked to heading, these changes can only be for the better.
With growing concern and rising cases of dementia in former professionals, the health and wellbeing of players must be at the centre as we look forward.
Concussion substitutions are hopefully here to stay.
Feature Image Credit: BBC Sport